Thursday, March 28, 2013

5 Reasons NOT to Adopt

As a social worker doing home studies, I've worked with families nationwide thinking about the adoption process. I've heard hundreds of reasons why people choose to grow their family through adoption; the reasons as varied as the prospective adoptive couples. Most are excellent and even honorable. But some raise incredible red flags.

So here's my list of reasons why couples should NOT adopt:

To save a relationship  
Included in this is to save a marriage, provide a friend or playmate for your child, or to cure the "empty nest" syndrome. Adding a child to a struggling marriage will only mask the underlying issues for a season. Adoption is never an answer to familial problems and only exacerbates them.  

To fill voids of past losses
This is a reality in our broken world and many people struggle with issues with children, past miscarriages, infertility or loss of a child, and marital struggles or unwanted singleness. All of these issues need to be addressed and worked through before adoption is considered. Going through stages of grief, processing it with others in your life, and possibly even counseling will be critical to ensure a family or an individual is ready to adopt.

Because you want specific type of child
I realize this is a touchy one. I do have families that I work with who are hoping for a girl (after having several boys or vice versa) or an African American child (often because they have adopted another child of the same race and they want to provide some commonality for them). But overwhelmingly they are open to the baby God has for them. This is key. Openness to God's vision for your family that might look a little differently than you had planned. When we have biological kids, none of us has the opportunity to "custom order" our children.  I think adoption should (for the most part) be the same.

Because you feel guilt or pressure
To keep up with the Jones (or another family who has adopted like the Louxs or the Bohlenders or the Wrights). These are all amazing families and, to be quite honest, some of my heroes who have been forerunners for the adoption movement. But just because adoption is right for one family doesn't mean it's right for yours (or the right timing, the right kind of adoption, etc.).

Because you want a reason to buy a minivan  
Amazingly they let you purchase a minivan regardless of your family size. (Buy one anyway. You will love it.)

The bottom line, don't adopt if the goal is to get your needs met. If you're familiar at all with parenting, you know parenting has very little to do with the parents and everything to do with the children. Adopted children, just like biological children, shouldn't be added to a family to meet a void. They should be added to families with an overflow of love, time, affection, and energy.

You might be wondering why families should adopt...more on that next here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hello Spring

Spring this year came in with a crazy bang.  In less than 2 weeks Kansas City saw temperatures in the 70's and people in shorts to another huge snow storm, aka Snowpacalyse 3.  In fact, it was so bad the kids didn't even have school yesterday. (On the heels of spring break this wasn't as wonderful as a snow day might sound.)

Every season since I've begun blogging, I've taken a little snapshot of what life looks like in my world (here's my fall and winter). Ironic that my pics for winter and spring are so similar...

So here's my beginning of spring...

Location:  Panera. It's become my little work space away from home where I work, have meetings, and dig into the word weekly with some amazing ladies. (And where I order my favorite: cheesy potato soup and Fuji apple salad or have endless coffee).

Watching:  American Idol with billions of other people. If you can be on 3 teams, I'm on team Kree, Candice, and Angie. And I secretly enjoy most of Nicki Minaj's comments. "You're my little marshmallow..." 

Eating:  Some of my own cooking. What?!  It's true. I'm trying my hand at making my family food a little more often recently (I guess some moms do this on a regular basis). So the house hasn't burned down, I have all of my fingers, and my kids aren't starving so I think we're doing ok.

Drinking:  Lots of caffeine. It's been rough season and I've needed the beauty of extra bold coffee. (OK - let's not lie. I'm not sure if there's a season I don't appreciate coffee.)      

Wanting:  To simplify my life. I've been purging things around the house that we no longer need but also craving space to purge all of the other extras that steal my family's time, energy, and joy. Spring cleaning, y'all, in a holistic sense.  

Needing: To embrace all that this Lenten season and Easter means for my life. God promises full redemption and restoration through Jesus. For that I'm thankful and needing this truth to sink way down deep.

Loving:  My job. Working as an adoption consultant for Christian Adoption Consultants is nothing short of incredible. It's an honor to be able to do something I'm so passionate about, have a flexible schedule to be able to be the wife and mama I need to be, and help create families. I honestly can't think of anything better.

Creating:  More time to be with Jesus. It's always hard to carve out that time every day but I'm never sorry.

Thinking: We're crazy blessed with good friends. Justin and Gretchen invited us over during Snowmaggedon over the weekend. The kids had fun roasting marshmallows at the fireplace and the adults had fun watching movies after they went to bed and herding and entertaining all 6 kids when they woke up. Only close friends can see me in my yoga pants.  Friendship solidified.

Wondering:  If my summer picture will also have snow. I live in KC so there are no promises...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Suitcases, Parenting, and a Good Father

Every parent comes to that time. The time when our children innocently ask the big questions. Questions too big for them to handle yet. Hard questions about why people make bad choices, sex, drugs and alcohol, violence, racism, and the brokenness in the world.

In Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place, I've never forgotten this story:

Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me, since anything I asked at home was promptly answered by the aunts. Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her.

“Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and “sin”  Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my  said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said. 

“Yes,” he said, “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

We're in a season now as a family where Isabelle and Jackson are asking hard questions.

The other night, in the midst of a hard discussion, Isabelle began asking questions that I couldn't give her answers for. Isabelle is my forever inquisitive and insightful child who can always sense when there's more to the story. So, pulling from Corrie ten Boom's story and my sweet friend, Gretchen's advice, our conversation went like this:

Bella, you know when our family goes on a trip and Mommy and Daddy carry the heavy bags? (Uh-huh.)

And you and Jack carry the smaller bags, right?  (Yep!)

Isabelle, Mommy and Daddy carry the heavier bags because we're bigger and stronger than you and Jackson right now. You carry the smaller ones because it's what you can handle. There aren't secrets in the bags. Our family doesn't keep secrets, only surprises (giggling). But there is some information that's too heavy for your young hearts right now. When you're older and the time is right, Mommy and Daddy will let you carry the bigger bags. We'll give you all the information we know. But for now, you're going to have to trust that we know what's best for you and let us carry the big stuff.

As I'm talking, I'm holding my proverbial breath and praying that explanation would suffice. Thankfully, it did. That word picture gave her enough to hold on to to trust me with the big stuff and rest in me carrying it. Now, when she asks a question that and I know she's not ready for the answer, I just tell her that's a big bag.

This world has got a lot of things backwards, and being information-givers for our children is just another one. As a mom, I often hear things like, If your child asks a question, you have to give them the answer - they must be ready for it! or Our children are going to find out sooner or later!

My job as a mother is not to shield my children within some magical bubble and pray that it works until they turn 18. We all know a slew of adults raised that way and the horrible way it backfires. Instead, I want to prepare Isabelle and Jackson to live in a world full of beauty and brokenness, fully leaning on their perfect Heavenly Father who will carry their big stuff for them.

This morning as I was getting ready, I realized I missed something huge. What if God does the same for me? I heard him say this to me:

Daughter, the weight you are trying to carry to too big for you. Let me carry the big bags; I'm stronger than you. You're in charge of the small ones for now because I know what you can handle. You're going to have to trust that I know best.

And my heart echoed the words of Corrie ten Boom, after hearing the wise words of her father that loved her:

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were is and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

Monday, March 18, 2013

On What I Know for Sure

Life can be rough. I've been reading in Lamentations 3 a lot this past week. The entire first part of the chapter the prophet wrestles with his faith and unbelief under the weight of life's struggles. He's despondent, broken, and weary.

But then, everything changes in verse 21.  

There are times in my life I can relate. The times when hope seems lost and the brokenness of the world seems like it's so big it will swallow me up.

When these times hit, I need to remember the truth of the gospel. Rather than dwell on the suffering around me, I need to meditate and let these truths sink deep into my heart...way down into my soul.

God's love is steadfast

His mercies are new every morning

God's faithfulness is great

He is my portion and enough, therefore I will hope in Him

God is good to those who wait quietly and seek after Him

The beautiful thing is that the truth of who God is and his grace in my life doesn't detract from my suffering or dismiss it. Instead, hard times can serve a purpose. My suffering isn't wasted. I know this because He tells me so:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not but us to shame because the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

I love the New American Standard Version of verse 5 that says "now hope does not disappoint." But this hope is not in things turning out the way I want them to, or what is "supposed" to happen, or even by me escaping trials.  

My hope is in Jesus, and this hope will never disappoint.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In Their Own Words: An Adoptive Mama Talks About Fundraising for Adoption

Shelley and her husband, Chris, are currently in the process of adopting. They are in the early stages and in the midst of the paperwork process. Being a news reporter, Shelly has made sure she's done her homework. Before beginning with Christian Adoption Consultants, they researched the adoption process and even interviewed several consulting agencies.  

Chris and Shelley have dove into the process with a passion and zeal for adoption that I love to see in my clients. They have been vigilant about completing paperwork for their home study and creative in their fundraising. Shelley recently shared what it's been like to fund raise for their adoption and deal with the brick walls of stereotypes   

Today’s Soap Box: Ignorant Comments on Adoption

Here’s the deal.

I understand everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

But I hope people choose their words wisely.

I’ve had one person comment recently on a facebook fundraising event which has triggered today’s soap box.

(And yes, I realize I might be opening the door for a rash of blunt opposition…)

That person will remain nameless and has since deleted her comment [maybe after having a realization of sorts that it was wasn't necessary nor was it completely accurate]…

Her comment on our recent t-shirt fundraising event (which I wrote about here, and ends TODAY!) was something along the lines of:

“How clever! Maybe I should make a t-shirt fundraiser to afford my baby!!”

Mind you, she gave birth to a baby girl just a few months ago.

I was hurt by her comment.

And maybe she didn't intend for it to be rude.

But the fact of the matter is this:

Adoption is expensive.

A lot of folks, take us for example, simply don’t have $30,000 that we’re just sitting on.

More importantly, that $30,000 isn’t to afford a “baby” per say.

It’s for much more.

It’s education, counseling, doctor’s appointments, money for rent or groceries for the birth mother who otherwise might not have the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy.

It’s money for an adoption agency that, often times, is providing those services for the birth parents.
It’s travel expenses.

It’s background checks.

It’s invasive [and frankly, sometimes uncomfortable] interviews.

It’s postage to mail out piles of in-depth paperwork.

It’s the cost of fingerprints.

And clearances from every place you've lived in the past 20-years.

It’s legal fees after home visits from a social worker checking in to make sure you’re competent as a parent.
That $30,000 isn’t including serious health implications a baby could have after he/she is born.

It’s just the average of a domestic infant adoption.

The bottom line:

We’re not fundraising because we can’t afford taking care of a baby.

Like many adoptive families, we’re fundraising to ALLOW us the opportunity to do so.

It takes a village to raise a child.

Whether you've adopted or not, it certainly does, there’s no denying it.

I hope during our fundraising efforts, we’re able to become advocates for the option of adoption.

And we can shed a little light on this long, complicated process.

We are humbled by the many, many friends, family members — even strangers — who have been walking with us along this unknown, scary path.

We've set aside our pride to ask and accept financial help.

And prayers.

It’s not easy.

Trust me.

To the former classmate of mine who made the [what I view as ignorant] comment that sparked my whole rant blog post today:

Consider yourself lucky.

Lucky that while you were pregnant you could save for your daughter’s college fund.

You could plan for her nursery.

That while you were expecting, you had comfort in knowing your insurance would likely cover a chunk of your baby’s hospital bills.

Perhaps this post will encourage you to think about your views re: adoption expenses.

I hope it does.

While we don’t have the peace-of-mind you might have experienced during you’re pregnancy, we still consider ourselves lucky.

Just in a different way.

Because we know firsthand how many people care about our family.

We've seen it.

And felt it.

Perhaps that’s the greatest perk in this whole process.

Finally, this is an excerpt from one of my favorite adoptive mom blogs on this very topic:
“You will be humbled by the generosity of others; let it humble you and give thanks for it.  Do not be embarrassed by it.  All the money in the world belongs to God and when he directs it toward your adoption, give thanks and use that gratitude to energize you as you move forward in your journey.”
Amen, sister!


To follow more of Chris and Shelley's journey, you can follow her blog. She's even posted a follow up and the response from her classmate. And, if you want a great t-shirt that supports adoption AND a family, check it out here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Their Own Words: Adoptive Mamas Talk Candidly About Birth Parents

Adopting has it's unique hurdles and challenges. The adoption process, bonding with a little one who has no genetic connection to you, navigating birth parent and transracial issues; the list can be endless.

But possibly one of the most frustrating and sometimes infuriating for adoptive parents is how friends, family, and even strangers speak of their adopted child's birth family. There are still assumptions about big, bad birth moms that come straight from the Lifetime movie channel with birth moms who show up on doorsteps with golf clubs demanding babies back. Reality is far from this picture and wouldn't come close to creating a movie drama.

Recently a friend and adoptive mother told me that even though people around her have started to use positive adoption language, they still often speak negatively about her son's birth mother. This woman is now like family to them and when people speak poorly of her, it cuts deep.  

I asked adoptive parents to complete this statement: What I wish people knew about birth parents is...

Here's what adoptive mothers had to say, and it might not be what you expect.

About who they are

They are courageous selfless women, who ultimately LOVE their child and want what’s best for them! ~Shauna

Birthparents grieve. ~Tracie

They are some of the most honest and loving people I know. ~Alicia 

Not all birthparents are troubled teens. They are greatly admired - what brave and strong people [they are]!  ~Erin 

I understand that she hasn't made the greatest choices in her adult life, but she's human and we love her and people don't seem to understand that it is hurtful to us to speak derogatorily about her.  ~Elizabeth

They are just people with feelings just like us. It is so easy to love them when you put yourself in their shoes and realize the sacrifice they are making...they are a part of us forever no matter how much contact we have with them. ~Kim

They are selfless! ~Erin

They are brave. Brave enough to sacrifice their bodies, their reputations, their jobs, their relationships with friends/family, etc., all because they know LOVE for the LIFE of their sweet child growing inside of them. They could have an abortion. They could keep a child in a dangerous or unstable situation. But they choose the harder road, because it is better for their child. What honor. What privilege to know people who can love like that. What joy to be given the gift of raising that blessed child.  ~Ashley

About the decision they make

The decision that they make for their child's future in NOT the easy way out.  It is NOT because they don't want their child or are GIVING them up. It is because they LOVE, and the decision is HARD. ~Tracie

They love and do "want" their children. They did not place for our sake, to make us parents. They did it for the child's sake. ~Stacey 

They made this decision because they want the best for their child. ~Heather

They did not "give their baby away." They made a courageous choice to give life and a future to their child because of their love. ~Katie

She chose LIFE and for that we are forever grateful! ~Annette

Birthmomma's are my hero's! Regardless of their circumstances they chose life and they ultimately made the best decision they could for their child. Even terminating rights isn't something they HAVE to do at birth. They are still making an incredibly selfless decision. ~Sara

About security in the adoption process

They are not scary, and I'm not terrified they will come back one day to take my kids away! They are legally my kids, and it can't happen. Also, they do not confuse my children. They know they grew in their birth mom's belly, and I am their mommy. ~Heather

I'm not afraid they will come back for my child. ~Erin

Birthparents do not try to tell me how to raise my child. ~Tracie

Birth parents are not to be feared. Like us, they love these children and their decisions for them are made out of love. We do not need to "protect" our children from their birth families. We are not cowering in fear that they will "take back" the kids. Even before the revocation period was over for each of them, we had peace, knowing that God was in control of where the kids would end up, and knowing that if our children's birth families chose to parent that decision would also be lovingly made. We respect and celebrate our children's birth families and are proud to be connected to them forevermore. And they appreciate us, too--they do not hate us for "taking away their babies." They have expressed love and respect for us. Just as our children, and they, are answers to our prayers, we are an answer to their prayers. We are on the same team, birth parents and adoptive parents, working together to promote the wellbeing of our precious children. ~Jennifer

About the relationship they share

I love them with a deep love I didn't know before adoption. ~Heather

Relationships between us and our birthfamilies are different and change over time. We love them regardless of how close we are or aren't. We hope to grow closer over the years if possible. The birthparent story is for my child and that birthparent and we do not freely share very personal information with others who are curious. ~Erin

Our relationship with our birth family isn't intrusive or inconvenient. It is a gift that we cherish. Birth parents that desire an open relationship aren't not letting go - it brings them joy and healing to know and see the child they carried and love is being well loved and thriving. ~Angela

They become a part of your family. Even if you don't have an extremely open adoption. They are a part of you, and you will pray for them the rest of your life with fervor...because you love them and care for them. It is something that may creep up on you, but as you fall in love with your fall in love with them. It is a part of adoption that most people think they want to skip over. I find that these people I never knew much about- I want to learn. I want to know more. I want to show them love. After all - they have shown me love in a way that is very real! ~Dawn

I wish people knew that we view her as a member of our family and to not talk about her to us in any way they wouldn't talk to us about one of our sisters. ~Elizabeth

They become a part of your family. Even if you don't have an extremely open adoption. They are a part of you, and you will pray for them the rest of your life with fervor.....because you love them and care for them. It is something that may creep up on you, but as you fall in love with your fall in love with them. It is a part of adoption that most people think they want to skip over. I find that these people I never knew much about- I want to learn. I want to know more. I want to show them love. After all - they have shown me love in a way that is very real! ~Kym

I'm not scared or threatened by them. They're now a part of our families story and we love and pray for them. My children (adopted older) love their birth parents deeply and miss them, and we encourage that. Wouldn't want it any different. ~Kim

They are entirely selfless in their decision. They love the child as much as anyone, and it's this love that compels them to do what they believe is the best for the child at all costs to themselves. Our birth mother is utterly precious and we all consider each other family now. ~Amanda

These are just a handful of thoughts and stories, born out of families who have embraced adoption and the reality of extending their family beyond their baby. I've seen it happen hundreds of times. Families who start the adoption journey anxious about the birth family and the reality of relationship. Then they meet the birth mama...and possibly the father, and the grandmother, and a sister...  Then they have faces and names and the side of the story. And then they end of falling in love twice. They anticipated loving this child. But never dreamed they could hold that kind of love for the birth family as well. 

Adoption is full of beautiful surprises.

If you want to read more about birth parents, openness, and real stories, click here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We Can Do Hard Things

We are in a hard season. You know the kind. One where you can't start up a prayer chain because it's too personal and complex. One where you can't share in a small group without crying. One where my kids ate McDonald's for lunch yesterday because I didn't have the physical and emotional energy to think through something as simple as a meal.

To be honest I'm sick of the hard places. We've had a rough couple of years around here. If you've followed our journey even for a few weeks you've seen it. It would be nice to think the rough stuff is behind us and tied up with a pretty bow. But it's not.

I've learned that we can do hard things. I made this little sign for our kitchen a few months ago.  It serves as a reminder of all that God has brought us through. And that we can go through more if He leads us there.  It reminds me of Isaiah 43:2:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 

There are seasons in life that are just plain rough. The kind of rough that smooths out my edges that God uses to work out my redemption. It's in these seasons that God exposes my heart: where I'm leaning and looking. So often I'm leaning on a foundation that can shift and trusting what is directly in front of me rather than His kingdom. I'm looking to my circumstances and comparing them to others when I should be looking to Jesus.   

We sang this in church yesterday and I got a gut check. This has been my prayer. AND this has been my answer for this space that we've found ourselves in.

I Asked the Lord
(Words by John Newton, Music by Laura Taylor)

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
"Lord, why is this," I trembling cried,
"Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?"
“’Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

I don't want to wish away the hard things. I want to embrace them in some mysterious and crazy way knowing that God can use these seasons for my heart and my holiness.  

Our family can do hard things.  And we're slowly getting better at it...
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